Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Are Sports For?

Girls Flag Football is on the rise but getting plenty of fire from some groups that see it as a dead end sport.  They would rather girls play sports that lead to what?  A college game?  A professional career?  The article is interesting, and I see, to a degree, the point the opponents are making.  But the point of high school sports ought not to be grooming for the pro's for either gender, since so few get there.  Rather, the point is that participation has its own rewards.  As I always say, more Ultimate is more Ultimate.

There is no real professional future (yet?) for Ultimate frisbee, nor do most people who play sports ahve professional futures in mind.  At a time where obesity is the most important health crisis facing American kids, it seems incredibly silly that we would not encourage more participation in athletics.

"Interest in flag football is so high, some high schools field freshman, junior and varsity squads and still make cuts. Its popularity has led to grumbling by coaches of other spring sports, who say they have lost their best athletes to flag football. In Palm Beach County, a recreational program has started for girls as young as 6"
Why?  Because it is fun.  Why should we let a little fun get in the way of a larger debate about Title IX and equality?  Because, again, the point of Title IX was about equality, and so it does make sense that folks might see flag football as a way to get the stats on female participation up without spending much more money on it.  But if the numbers are driven by the enthusiasm of the participants, well, then isn't that what we should be welcoming?
Donna Lopiano, a former chief executive of the Women’s Sports Foundation, said the sport was inexpensive and offered opportunities for girls of all body types. Ms. Lopiano, who now consults on gender-equity issues, said if she worked for a school facing scrutiny of its athletic program, “I would do this in two seconds.”
The NCAA is not yet listing women's flag football as an emerging sport, just rugby, equestrian, sand volleyball and squash.  Hmmm.  If that is the standard for which sports we should support, I have some serious (and not-so-serious) questions:
  • Equestrian?  That sounds just chock full of equality.  Or not.  And expensive.  Just the sport needed to increase female participation.
  • Sand volleyball?  A serious sport to be sure, but the top of the profession gets TV time mostly because of the minimal attire.  Great role models there. 
  • Squash.  Good if you are Canadian, but how widespread is squash in the US.  And it has some of the same problems as equestrian--limited and expensive facilities that can fit only a small number of folks  Are you really going to increase significantly the participation of girls for a sport where only a few fit into a room and there are few rooms available.  
  • Rugby is the only sport here that is really a team sport.  It is also as inexpensive (important these days in times of crunched budgets) as flag football or ultimate--a ball, some cleats, a field.  I would imagine that Rugby would be getting similar interest as flag football if it were a bit more central to American culture/media.  It is a fun, team-oriented game with as much of a professional future as flag football, at least in North America.
The only downside here is that flag football may be diverting young women from ultimate, but ultimate is growing enough.  Plus when these girls go to college, if they cannot find flag football, they can bring their similar skill sets to ultimate. 

No comments: